A team of students who placed fourth internationally with their HIV research got an opportunity to meet with the experts – a team lead by Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, at the University of Cincinnati. The university arranged a behind-the-scenes visit for Lexie Adams, Chase Harris, Maddox Linneman and Sam Pannek that let them see inside the research pharmacy, retrovirus lab and other facilities where dozens of HIV/AIDS clinical research studies are carried out year-round. The students all participated in Butler Tech's biomedical sciences programs at Lakota East High School.
The Lakota team’s research centers on the “Berlin Patient,” a man with HIV who later developed leukemia. To treat the leukemia, the Berlin Patient received bone marrow transplants from a donor with a genetic mutation that prevents cells from becoming infected with HIV. That beneficial mutation transferred to the Berlin Patient, whose doctors say has been functionally cured of his HIV infection.
The Lakota students theorize that a continuous infusion of the genetically modified protein could help cure other patients as well. For the 38 million patients worldwide, including many in Africa where HIV/AIDS is still an epidemic, the students hope they can develop an inexpensive therapy similar to an insulin pump.
Dr. Fichtenbaum said that he is very impressed by the research. “I thought it was fabulous. It’s great that young people are thinking of this,” he told the group. However, he cautions that challenges remain in delivering the protein throughout the body, and that similar approaches have been unsuccessful.
The team isn’t giving up. They are keeping up on other research studies and continuously modifying their approach. They hope to take their study back to international competition this year.
Meantime, the University of Cincinnati was eager to welcome all of the students when the time comes for them to select a college program. The Lakota students had the opportunity to sit down with admissions and recruitment coordinators during their visit to learn more about UC’s undergraduate and graduate programs.